(7th June to 14th June)
As soon as we hit Italy we noticed the difference. In all our time in France the traffic was not really that congested, even when passing through the centres of large busy places such as Marseille and Cannes. Driving through the first city Ventimiglia I started earning my Italian driver’s stripes as scooters and vans buzzed past the camper on both sides! It is kind of fun, if not a little stressful, and once you learn that nobody actually stops at a stop sign you can use this to your advantage too!
Our first night in Italy was spent at San Remo, for some reason, we thought we would not like as we had the impression it was a poor mans Monte Carlo. Since we were in Italy we decided to go out for a meal using the tips from the Lonely Planet. These led us to the windy streets of the historical old town away from the Port where we found a small restaurant (Caffe Corradi, Via Corradi) owned by a smiley overweight Napolitano wearing massive gold framed aviator shades – we took his size and birth right as positive signs that the pizza would be good but we both concluded that we would not be copying his style in sun deflectors.
Once filled with great pizza we strolled around the town and port and found it very enjoyable. San Remo has the spirit of a ‘normal’ town and not just a holiday destination. At the port, elderly men can be found repairing nets for the returning fishing boats and college teens on their way home can be found socialising with friends at the cafes alongside the beach promenade.
Chilling at the San Remo camper stop. Next to the sea again…..
Our first Italian meal in the van. Italian sausage and salad.
The only down side to San Remo is that the majority of the beach is privately owned by numerous beach clubs that charge 15 euros for a sun lounger. Therefore, once we arrived in Finale Ligure, our next stop over further along the coast, we took the free opportunity to swim in the Italian sea for the first time on the tour.
It seems that we have been driving on the ‘The Corniches’ for weeks now as we picked up this route before St. Tropez and it continues to offer spectacular views but I must admit I am looking forward to some nice easy going dual carriage ways.
Driving through Genoa, at last a dual carriage.
The Italian towns of varying sizes that we pass through are similar in appearance and are mainly made up of very thin streets lined by houses of a minimum of 3 stories in height that are painted in peaches, yellows or pale blues clustered on the hill side surrounding a bay. For this reason we felt disappointed with our rail day trip to the Cinque Terre (5 medieval fishing towns between Levanto and La Spezia – listed as one of the top 15 sights in The Lonely Planet -Italy) as in my opinion they were not dissimilar to the rest of the towns we had passed through. In fact, at a previous stop over in San Rocco before we reached Levanto we literally stumbled across a small village called Mortola which was much more awe inspiring as it was truly only assessable by foot. Even the villagers that lived there had to leave the communal donkey (a three wheeled Piaggio in this case used for shopping trips) at the foot of the cliff side path and walk the final 800 meters.
Typical town, this one was one of the Cinque Terre villages. It is becoming a bit of a blur!!
Levanto itself is an easy going tourist town and offered the normal bars and restaurants. ‘Appertivo’ or happy hour in this region of Italy can be useful for the travellers on a budget as each drink comes with free food – you can fill up easily if so inclined consuming anything from pizza to deep fried cod balls. At one of these we met Lucca and Federica, owners of the Salty Dog Cafe, who charmed us with their great hospitality and also introduced us to another local bar the ‘Verde Crusse’ where they were organising a big screen for the Euro 2016 football and this was our chosen venue to watch England draw with Russia on the following Saturday night.
The Salty Dog Café. 33, Via Jacopo da Levanto, Levanto. ‘Cheers’ Lucca and Federica
From Levanto the tour will continue into Tuscany………
Some motorhome pointers on Italy – when I purchased the LPG Gaslow conversion there seemed to be some doubts as to whether a petrol station forecourt would let you fill up a motorhome with converted gas bottles (note, our conversion has the filler cap on the exterior of the van). We needed LPG leaving France but we unable to find a station in the Menton area (France’s last coastal town) so we had to try in Italy. I used the ‘mylpg’ website and found that the nearest station was in Imperia about 30 Km east of San Remo. We had no problem filling up, in fact the forecourt attendant did it for us, so we are hoping that this experience will continue throughout our time in Italy.